Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said BNP founder Gen Ziaur Rahman should not be referred to as ‘president’ because of a court ruling saying he had usurped power.
“Ziaur Rahman can’t be called president,” the ruling Awami League chief said on Thursday.
In her opening speech at the Awami League’s Central Working Committee and Parliamentary Board joint meeting, Hasina said calling Zia president would amount to the contempt of court.
Khandker Muhstaque Ahmed seized power after the assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on Aug 15, 1975. He made Zia the army chief.
Zia came to power through coups in the army and proclaimed himself president after becoming the chief martial law administrator.
The High Court later ruled that he seized power illegally.
In a separate verdict, the court said former army chief Ershad’s assumption of power was also unconstitutional.
Ershad, who heads the opposition Jatiya Party, is also the prime minister’s special envoy.
“Both Zia and Ershad captured power illegally,” Hasina said. “The court has scrapped the Fifth Amendment and Seventh Amendment to the Constitution.”
The prime minister said one must follow the court’s ruling.
“Whatever they (Zia and Ershad) did was illegal since they seized power illegally,” the prime minister added.
Zia formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to pursue politics. His wife Khaleda Zia took the helm after he was assassinated in a coup in 1981.
Hasina also talked about the latest execution of the war criminals, former BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and former Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid.
She referred to a headline appearing in a daily that said simultaneous executions were unprecedented in Bangladesh.
“No, it’s not,” the prime minister asserted, recalling 19 military coups during Zia’s tenure.
“There had been one coup after another. Ten to fifteen people were hanged simultaneously in Dhaka Central Jail. Once, 15 people were hanged after a coup,” she said.
Those executions did not follow any rule, the prime minister said.
She accused Zia of executing most of the freedom-fighter army officers.
“He hanged 150 people in one night,” the Awami League chief added.
Hasina described how her party leaders were tortured for days on end during Zia’s tenure and spoke about the BNP founder and his wife rehabiltating people who had opposed independence in 1971 in their governments.
Referring to the killings of Awami League activists and torture of women during the Liberation War, she said, “I haven’t been able to forget the atrocities I witnessed after independence.”